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Local

Hometown HEROs

NHS class gives back, benefits children

Students in Newton High School teacher Cheryl O’Roake’s class pose with a check for $373.25, money they’re donating to the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital. Students in the class held a dance to raise the money.
Students in Newton High School teacher Cheryl O’Roake’s class pose with a check for $373.25, money they’re donating to the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital. Students in the class held a dance to raise the money.

You don’t have to be a HERO to make a difference, but it doesn’t hurt. Students in Cheryl O’Roake’s Early Childhood Occupations class at Newton High School raised $373.25 to support the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City this year. Students in the class are also HEROs, which stands for Helping to Encourage Rich Opportunities in Every School.

O’Roake’s class is designed to pair students who are interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education with opportunities to explore those career pathways. It only makes sense to find ways to give back to the local community by finding fundraising opportunities that benefit children, O’Roake said. Students in her class raised the money by hosting a dance at the high school. Their event, the Neon Dance, was a success, filling the high school gym with more than 200 students doing their best Floss Dance and Cha Cha Slide earlier this year.

Students filled the gym with a combination of glowsticks and bright colors, which transformed the space, Newton High School senior Matthew Karsten said.

“It was just something different to attract a wider audience,” Karsten said.

Hosting the dance may have been a lot of work, but Karsten said it was worth it. The class raised almost twice as much as they’d been expecting, and students in O’Roake’s class heard plenty of encouraging feedback from students who attended the event.

“It turned out better than we’d hoped, we made more money, our goal was only to raise $200,” Karsten said. “I think it was a good dance, I think they enjoyed it.”

After covering the expense of hiring a DJ for the dance the students are planning on donating the rest of their profits to the children’s hospital in Iowa City. After spending their class time working with young children the students in O’Roakes’s class said they’re eager to give back.

“We just wanted to help the kids over there,” Karsten said. “We just wanted to do what we could to make a difference.”

Senior Reece Thurmond, a student in O’Roake’s class, said his classmates recognized a way they could give back, and they jumped in with both feet. During the school week, students in the class spend 90 minutes most mornings working with young students. During class time at the high school students learn to plan and direct individualized instruction and group activities, preparation they’ll put to use as they’re teaching lessons during their internships. O’Roake places her students at a variety of daycare and elementary schools in Newton, finding a place for students who want to work with younger peers is never a challenge, she said.

“Elementary teachers are very good,” O’Roake said. “They usually ask for HERO students every year.

Pairing the class with a school club means that students stay engaged, even outside of the classroom. This school year students have also marched in the Homecoming Parade, provided childcare during Aurora Heights Elementary Curriculum Night and adopted a family for Christmas. Next month they’re planning to volunteer at an Easter Egg Hunt at the Newton YMCA as well as making May Day baskets to hand out at local nursing homes.

Pitching in, and giving back helps the students in O’Roake’s class give the students they teach a positive role model as well. As a future teacher, Thurmond said classmates are always looking to set a positive example in the community.

“This is how you teach them, you have to demonstrate this stuff,” Thurmond said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com

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